Mind-body medicine focuses on the connection between your mind and body and how your brain health affects your overall health. Meditation and yoga are some examples of mind-body therapies that are often used to improve brain health by reducing stress and anxiety, as well as promoting good health and well-being. In a world filled with uncertainties, practicing mind-body medicine is especially useful.
Read on as two physician experts at Emerson offer insights and tips to enrich your mind-body connection.
First up, James A. Street, PhD, MD, medical director of the Steinberg Wellness Center for Mind and Body at Emerson Hospital
How does stress impact my body?
Adverse consequences of chronic stress include insomnia, fatigue, impaired concentration, irritability, aggressive behavior, digestive issues, compulsive eating, and headaches. There is also a correlation between stress and an increased incidence of major medical problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Stress management is therefore a fundamental element of wellness.
What are some tips to manage stress in my life?
- Identify the specific causes of stress in your life and try to eliminate them or moderate their impact.
- Eat a healthy diet, drink enough water, and decrease your consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
- Exercise regularly. It is a natural and effective stress outlet, plus it increases levels of endorphins and other feel-good hormones.
- Be sure to get the seven to eight hours of sleep per night that most adults need for the recuperation of mind and body.
- Engage in relaxing activities like reading, listening to music, drinking a cup of herbal tea, walking in the woods, taking a hot bath, or practicing yoga or meditation.
- Most Importantly, find time to do the things you love.
Up next, Jennifer Nayor, MD, gastroenterologist with Concord Gastroenterology Associates
Is there a connection between the mind and the gut?
I believe there is a mind-gut connection. People feel stress in many different ways. For some, it is shoulder tension, and for others it is gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, abdominal discomfort, or change in bowel habits. The medical community needs to learn more about the effects of stress on the GI tract, but people should be aware that this connection does indeed exist.
How can I tell if my symptoms are more than just stress?
If you are concerned, it is always a good idea to check in with your primary care doctor. They can offer medications to help with your symptoms and evaluate you for more concerning symptoms that suggest you need to see a specialist. When I see patients in the gastroenterology clinic, I consider further testing when I hear red flag signs, including rectal bleeding, food or liquids getting stuck when you swallow, or a family history of colon cancer and/or inflammatory bowel disease.
What are your best tips to keep your gut healthy?
Eat a well-balanced, high-fiber diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Exercise is also essential. The intestines are a muscle, so regular exercise improves gut motility and bowel movement regularity. If you have concerns about your gut health, talk with your primary care provider or call Concord Gastroenterology at 978-287-3835.
Health Works Here Podcast: Colonoscopy Screenings
Jennifer Nayor, MD, discusses the prevalence of colon cancer, why screening is so important, and tips for helping patients prepare for their colonoscopy.
Stress Reducing Meditation Tips
Practicing meditation regularly may help your body cope better with stress. When you are under stress, your body speeds up your heart and breathing rate, narrowing blood vessels and tightening muscles. Meditating dampens that flight-or-fight response and promotes an alternate relaxation response, slowing down the heart and breathing rate, and improving blood flow.
Meditating can also help with anxiety and depression, and improve your mood. There are many ways to meditate. You can sit, lie down, or even walk while practicing meditation. Here are some tips to help you start:
- Practice in a quiet place with as few distractions as possible for 10 to 20 minutes, once or twice daily.
- Make yourself comfortable.
- Find something positive you can focus on — a word or phrase, your breath, or a visual object.
- Keep bringing your attention back to your focus point when you notice you have become distracted by thoughts, emotions, sounds, or other things in your environment
Stress Management Classes
Do you need help managing stress and developing a healthy lifestyle? You are not alone. Classes at Emerson’s Steinberg Wellness Center plan to reopen in September 2020 after suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the latest information, visit emersonwellness.org